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Curriculum - 7th Grade Standards - Kansas History Standards - 1930s to 1940s (Benchmark 5) - Agriculture and the Dust Bowl (Indicator 1) - Soil erosion

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A living example of our problem in soil conservation

A living example of our problem in soil conservation
Creator: Works Progress Administration Indian Program
Date: 1935
This image, part of the New Deal Indian Program scrapbook compiled by the Works Progress Administration, depicts a gully created by severe erosion. Erosion such as this depleted the soil of its nutrients and decreased fertility, and blowing soil contributed to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.


Black Friday meets its master

Black Friday meets its master
Creator: Garden City Daily Telegram
Date: April 10, 1935
Several articles about life in the Dust Bowl can be found on the front page of this newspaper from Garden City. Articles of particular interest include two articles on "raging dusters," one on the winter wheat crop, and a brief article discussing the postponement of community meetings to distribute aid under the soil erosion program. The newspaper also includes articles about other newsworthy events occurring in Garden City and around the state of Kansas.


Chapter IV: Destructive effects of undesirable tendencies, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee

Chapter IV: Destructive effects of undesirable tendencies, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee
Creator: Great Plains Committee
Date: December, 1936
This report was created by the Great Plains Committee, which had been called by President Roosevelt to investigate the effects of drought and wind erosion in the southwestern United States. Chapter IV of the report, titled "Destructive Effects of Undesirable Tendencies," outlines some of the major problems in this region, composed of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. These problems included the decreasing amount of range land, soil erosion, and the depletion of ground water. A large part of the chapter deals with relief efforts and homestead rehabilitation. It also contains illustrations and tables that provide comparative data on the situation in each of these states.


Chapter V: Attitudes of mind, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee

Chapter V: Attitudes of mind, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee
Creator: Great Plains Committee
Date: December 1936
This report was created by the Great Plains Committee, which had been called by the President to investigate the effects of drought and wind erosion in the southwestern United States. For the purposes of the committee, the Great Plains region was composed of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. In Chapter V, the committee argues that farmers' lack of understanding about effective agricultural techniques, combined with severe drought, had created the critical situation that existed during the Dust Bowl. Certain "attitudes of mind," such as the idea that natural resources are inexhaustible, were the root cause of farmers' problems. The chapter outlines some of these attitudes and assumptions that had proved to be unreliable.


Checks on erosion and floods

Checks on erosion and floods
Date: Between 1930 and 1937
This unidentified newspaper clipping illustrates and explains four useful techniques for combating drought and soil erosion: planting vegetation on steep slopes, strip cropping, contour plowing, and check dams.


Curbing the wind

Curbing the wind
Creator: Aicher, L. C.
Date: 1935
The twenty-ninth biennial report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture includes this short article by L. C. Aicher, superintendent of the Fort Hays Experiment Station in Hays, Kansas. In the article ("Curbing the Wind" in Twenty-Ninth Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture for the Years 1933 to 1934"), Aicher describes the most effective techniques for preventing wind erosion, stating that "the secret in preventing soil from blowing is to keep the surface in a roughened condition." He also gives directions about the best methods for listing land and caring for fallow fields.


Day by day Kansas is rapidly washing away

Day by day Kansas is rapidly washing away
Creator: Topeka Capital
Date: December 4, 1932
This brief article discusses the importance of decreasing water erosion, which has washed away approximately ninety percent of the productive soil in eastern Kansas. Two remedies which are suggested are terracing and the planting of blue grass sod (which will bind the soil together). Scientists at Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) were experimenting with these two techniques.


Drifts of dust

Drifts of dust
Creator: Stovall Studio
Date: 1935
This image illustrates drifts of dust in Ford County deposited during the raging storms that swept the area during the Dust Bowl. The drifts have grown large enough to smother the farm machinery, which has fallen into disuse since the drought. The photograph was taken by Stovall Studio, dodge City, Kansas, and is labeled #10.


Dust Bowl soil is now same as Chinese desert

Dust Bowl soil is now same as Chinese desert
Creator: Hubbard, J. R.
Date: August 9, 1936
This article in the Topeka Capital discusses some of the causes of soil erosion and diminished soil moisture, as well as ways to counteract these forces. Both WPA engineers and scientists at the Hays Engineering Station have been measuring soil moisture and developing techniques to counteract the negative effects of the farming trends in use since World War I.


H.A. Kinney to Governor Walter Huxman

H.A. Kinney to Governor Walter Huxman
Creator: Emergency Dust Bowl Committee
Date: April 23, 1937
Secretary of the Emergency Dust Bowl Committee H. A. Kinney of Liberal (Seward County) sends Governor Walter Huxman of Topeka (Shawnee County) a copy of a telegram the committee sent President Franklin Roosevelt. The telegram appeals to the federal government for assistance in stopping the removal of top soil in the drought stricken areas of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. The telegram advises that the present program of management by individual farmers is inadequate. H. A. Kinney was also Secretary of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce.


Lister cultivator at work

Lister cultivator at work
Date: Between 1910 and 1929
A photograph showing a farmer engaged in preparing his fields with a horse-drawn lister to help conserve water in the furrows and to prevent the topsoil from blowing away. Although this photograph is undated, such listing practices were used during the 1940s and 1950s to prevent a recurrence of the Dust Bowl.


Sheet erosion in Ford County, Kansas

Sheet erosion in Ford County, Kansas
Creator: McLean, B. C.
Date: 1940
This photograph, taken for the Soil Conservation Service, depicts sheet erosion on the farm of Robert Jones near Ford, Kansas. This type of erosion is caused by cultivating up and down a slope from left to right. According to an annotation on the back of the photograph, this damage occurred after a heavy rainstorm. Note that the right portion of the field had been contour plowed and consequently remained undamaged.


Southwest is not lost

Southwest is not lost
Creator: Kansas City Times
Date: February 25, 1937
In this brief article, Harry Umberger, chairman of the Kansas wind erosion committee, contradicts reports circulating in New York City that the Southwest will never be able to produce wheat again. He goes on to describe the reasons for blowing soil and the steps that must be taken to make farming the Dust Bowl a profitable -- yet environmentally stable -- enterprise.


Summary forward, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee

Summary forward, in The future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee
Creator: Great Plains Committee
Date: December 1936
This report was created by the Great Plains Committee, which had been called by the President to investigate the effects of drought and wind erosion in the southwestern United States. For the purposes of the committee, the Great Plains was defined as the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The forward to the report, included here, states the purpose of the report and the steps that must be taken to solve this problem, both on the federal level and the state level. These steps include the development of water resources, government purchase of range lands, control of erosion, community organization, and legislation regarding tenancy, leasing, and delinquency.


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